Social Control Theory is a criminological theory that suggests that individuals are more likely to conform to societal norms and laws when there is a strong presence of social bonds between them and their communities. This theory emphasizes the importance of socialization and social bonds in preventing criminal behavior. In this article, we will explore what kind of theory Social Control Theory is and how it works.
Origins of Social Control Theory
Social Control Theory emerged in the late 19th century as a response to the classical criminological theories that focused on individual factors such as personality traits, genetics, and rational choice. The pioneers of Social Control Theory argued that crime was not caused by individual factors alone but was also influenced by social factors such as poverty, unemployment, and family dysfunction.
Social Control Theory posits that individuals are less likely to engage in criminal behavior if they have strong social bonds with their families, peers, schools, and communities. These social bonds act as a form of control that limits an individual’s inclination towards deviant behavior. According to this theory, individuals who lack these strong social bonds are more likely to engage in criminal behavior.
The first component of social bonds is attachment. Attachment refers to an individual’s emotional connection with others.
Strong emotional attachments with family members, friends, teachers, or other authoritative figures create a sense of responsibility towards them. Individuals who have strong emotional attachments are less likely to engage in criminal behavior because they do not want to disappoint or hurt those they are attached to.
The second component of social bonds is commitment. Commitment refers to an individual’s investment in conventional activities such as education or employment. Individuals who have invested time and effort into these activities are less likely to engage in criminal behavior because they do not want to jeopardize their future prospects.
The third component of social bonds is involvement. Involvement refers to an individual’s participation in conventional activities such as sports, clubs, or volunteer work. Individuals who are involved in these activities are less likely to engage in criminal behavior because they have less free time and are occupied with positive activities.
The fourth component of social bonds is belief. Belief refers to an individual’s acceptance of societal norms and values. Individuals who have a strong belief in the legitimacy of societal norms are less likely to engage in criminal behavior because they see it as wrong or immoral.
Critiques of Social Control Theory
Social Control Theory has been criticized for neglecting the role of power and inequality in shaping criminal behavior. Critics argue that this theory fails to acknowledge the structural factors such as poverty, racism, and discrimination that limit individuals’ opportunities for conventional lifestyles.
In conclusion, Social Control Theory is a criminological theory that emphasizes the importance of social bonds in preventing criminal behavior. This theory suggests that individuals who have strong emotional attachments, commitments, involvements, and beliefs are less likely to engage in criminal behavior. However, it has been criticized for ignoring the structural factors that contribute to crime.